Any game with classes adds new classes over time. It’s almost axiomatic. I don’t know why absolutely every game cannot be designed with the classes that the designers want from day one, and I really don’t know why I can’t say that, look at a brand-new game, and still find myself immediately asking about when I get new classes. I was speculating on new classes for Star Wars: The Old Republic when it had been out for two weeks for funk’s sake.
But whatever game you’re playing, there’s a pattern to these new classes being added. It’s an inevitable pattern, one that happens time and again. It’s also a pattern that fits nicely into an article structured around the titular number of bullet points, which is really good for me because I apparently cannot rename the column to “Perfect Seven-And-A-Half” for a week. This is also why I still haven’t gotten a drinking game in here.
1. The Requesting
Everyone will always be asking for new classes. Everyone.
You have the people who will be asking for classes based on well-known entries from whatever franchise the game is based upon or various bits of promotional art. You’ll have weird people piecing together ideas from the lore or trying to import strange ideas that just sound cool. And then you have the random jerks who want to just bring in the weirdest possible concepts and the classes that barely existed in one game so that everyone plays scythe-wielding nutjobs or whatever.
In short, designers do not have to search long for a class to announce. Once a new class is announced, you can move on to the next phase.
2. The Anticipating
The fun part of the second stage is that anticipation turns everyone brutally stupid. There is no scenario where a class dubbed the Deathwielding Killmonger will be a healer, but during this stage of things people will suggest that because it hasn’t been explicitly contradicted, it’s still possible. As someone who enjoys considering all (stupid) possibilities, I will freely admit that I am including myself here and will write lengthy diatribes about how we don’t technically know what the class can do.
As we near release, obviously the pool of “possible” begins to narrow, which leads to two reactions. The first and more common reaction is joy at finding out about the new toys. Less common, but far sillier, is anger once people realize that Deathwielding Killmongers won’t be healers because the idea sounded really silly and awesome.
I am sometimes in that group as well.
3. The Release
Ah, at long last! The class you waited so long for is here, and you get to enjoy it! And then, four hours later…
4. The Complaining
There are two flavors of complaining, but they’re both fundamentally the same thing. The new class is overpowered or underpowered compared to everything else, and therefore it’s either totally irrelevant or makes every other class totally irrelevant.
On some level, this degree of complaining is totally understandable because regardless of actual power levels, there’s a definite lack of perspective with any new class. Classes are, in part, defined by what they can’t do as well as what they can. When you have a completely new class, designers often give it tricks that no other class gets simply because they are playing with those definitions. That’s without even getting into the fact that there’s less sense of how the class plays out over the long run, and all you can do is compare how the class plays with jumbled rotations and guesses to classes that people have already worked out into fine-tuned machines. The classes will be a little wonky and people’s perceptions will be off.
There will also be some people still complaining about the stuff that was never actually promised for the class but that they really want. But there’s not much you can do about that.
5. The Tweaking
When a designer releases a baby class into the wild, the class is expected to be abandoned for a while. Then, after the class has been live for some time and the whining of the players has reached a certain point, the designer comes back in, picks up the class, guts it, rearranges most of its organs, and…
Wow, that metaphor got dark fast. Look, the point is that the designers adjust the class a bit, all right? I don’t know what else to tell you, I wrote that and I find myself thinking that it went to an uncomfortably dark place somewhere along the line.
6. The Complaining II: Electric Boogaloo
This is the last round of complaining, only usually with everything flipped. There are two possibilities here, and the more likely one is that after a bit of adjustment, the class is in a good place. Not a perfect one, that requires ongoing attention, but it works as intended. What changed is that players who had been watching the new class like hawks got used to the class being over/underpowered, and now that it’s less/more powerful it feels like a huge shift, despite the actual net result being that it’s closer to its contemporaries.
It’s also possible, of course, that in order to correct for the initial mistake the developers have gone way too far in the other direction, a tendency known as “Blizzard Syndrome.” It’s kind of like people complaining you didn’t participate enough at one office meeting and your responding by putting on a rock musical at the next meeting.
7. The Tweaking II: The Tweakening
You know what it’s like when you wake up in the morning and you’re not happy with how your hair looks? So you get up, and you take a shower, and it still doesn’t look good? And then you start fiddling with it, and you get it to looks pretty all right despite everything, but there’s just one part that still doesn’t look right? And then you keep trying to correct that one part, and then you need to change everything all over again, and then it’s been an hour and your hair looks worse than when you started because you can’t stop messing with it?
That’s kind of how class design works, apparently, and this is the “messing with it” portion.
8. The Silence
The complaints don’t stop, of course; they never stop, not even when the game is shut down and will never be coming back. But given enough time, the designers pretty much stop listening to them. In comes a period of time when the new class is still the topic of discussion for players, but the designers have, by all accounts, moved on.
You would think this would be a low point, and for a while it is. The new class is still new, but it doesn’t seem to be getting extra love, which leads to…
9. The Acceptance
Eventually, the new part of the class starts falling off. A few months out, it’s not new; it’s just part of the game, as much a fixture as anything else currently in the game. Its issues are no longer discussed as some special island among all of the classes; they’re just part of the overall network of class balance issues, and everyone can look at the whole thing more objectively.
As fun as the novelty can be, it ultimately does divide up the game’s options, and it makes something more attractive or alluring or intriguing than it might otherwise be. Reaching the point of acceptance means that not all of the issues have been fixed, but everyone’s ready to accept that it’s here and a core element of the game.
10. The Boredom
That, of course, means it’s time to start searching for something new to have in the game. Repeat from step one.